Countering unfair lobbying

It is natural and basically good that interest groups inform regulators on facts, concerns, and alternative solutions. However, lobbying can also go over the top, torpedoing good governance. This article investigates what can be done to counter unfair or disproportionate lobbying.

In the big regulatory centres and in many capitals, lobbying has become stronger over the years, both in terms of number of lobbyists and in terms of methods used. Lobbying methods have become ever more “professional”, but also aggressive and unfair. Officials in charge of protecting the common interest have ever more difficulties in defending the common interest against disproportionate lobbying. Lobby control organisations are too weak to assist officials. It is time that officials defend themselves in an active way against disproportionate lobbying.

We list here a couple of reflections and recommendations that might help officials to defend the common interest against disproportionate lobbying:

– Analyse the interests of the lobby organisations you are confronted with. Put yourself in their shoes.

– Based on the analysis of their interests: what measures are they most likely to request?

– What would be the negative side-effects of the measures they request for others, the common interest, but also for the lobby organisation or its constituency? List all these negative side-effects.

– Identify scientific arguments defending your position and involve scientists if needed.

– Identify legal arguments / legal constraints imposing or defending your position.

– Identify other constraints imposing on you the position you have.

– Are there alternative measures that would accommodate the lobby organisations’ interests and requests without disproportionately harming the common interest? Check the regulatory measures other than regulation described in the Handbook (right column). Check the many incentives listed in the Handbook.

– Are there measures that would be recognised as accommodating their interests (whilst not doing so in reality) without disproportionately harming the common interest?

– What can you offer them in return for not bringing forward their position? Are they open to such a deal?

– Who, within the lobby organisations or in its constituency, could defend your view from inside / behind the lobby organisations? Think of counter-attacks with regard to the issue at stake!

– Think of counter-attacks with regard to other issues so as to win bargaining material or to discredit the lobby organisation.

– If you were them: when, how and towards whom would you attack / bring forward the requests of the lobby organisations?

– Who is the weakest target in your entity or organisation? Be aware that the weakest element in the defence chain is not necessarily straight above you, but might be sideways or diagonally above you. In some cases it might even be below you.

– Which other entities or organisations might be targeted by the lobby organisations to lever you out or to circumvent you?

– How can you immunise the weakest targets in your organisation, other entities and organisations? Which arguments would be recognised as valid by them?

– How can you isolate these weakest targets? How can you get them controlled by others?

– Alert informally opposite lobby organisations / call for help. Be aware of confidentiality obligations when doing so.

– Check whether there are internal or institutional control instances (legal entities, auditors, supervision bodies, mediators, parliamentarians) which could assist you in defending your position. Be aware of confidentiality obligations when doing so.

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